Toxic Toy Data Lacking

According to researchers, brittle and pliable toys form the category of toys with the most potential to expose children to toxic metals. Children are most likely to put this type of toy in their mouths. A review of toy safety regulations and related scientific studies found significant gaps in both regulations of, and data on, toxic metals. Environmental engineer Gérald J. Zagury and graduate student Mert Guney at Montreal Polytechnic compared regulations for toxic metals in consumer products in the U.S., Canada, and European Union. They found that U.S. and Canadian regulations focus primarily on lead, while European Union toy safety legislation sets limits on 19 metals. These European limits are based on data on the metals’ bioavailability and the toys’ composition—a more realistic determination of toxicity, the researchers say, than North America’s measure of metal content in a toy, the researchers say. “We were surprised to see that North American toy regulations were so weak,” Zagury says. The emphasis on lead in U.S. and Canadian regulations mirrors the focus of worldwide scientific studies on metal-contaminated toys and jewellery, the researchers found. They observed gaps in data on exposure from toys and low-cost jewellery to metals other than lead. In addition, they discovered that few behavioural studies have looked at how children’s play with toys affects their exposure to metals. For instance, younger children may be more likely to be exposed when they put toys in their mouths, but the researchers report no studies measuring ingested toy material. The researchers suggest that regulators require product testing that considers the potential bioavailability of 12 toxic metals, including arsenic and cadmium, which are likely to occur in toys. Such regulations should also consider child behaviour and exposure pathways, toy composition, and children’s exposure to metals from other sources, all of which require further study, the researchers add.

Chemical & Engineering News, 31 March 2012 ; ;